Cinderella lives at my house
My 4-year-old daughter has decided what she’s going to be when she grows up: Cinderella. In her pink princess pajama dress she prances and twirls around the house singing made-up princess songs and dragging me off by the hand to get married. If we couldn’t talk her into taking those pajamas off to wash them once in a while, we’d have to pry them off with a crowbar because she’d wear them until the dirt permanently glued them to her body.
What is it with little girls always wanting to get married? For goodness sake, she’s only four. As a boy, I would only play house or similar games with my sister as long as the Army could bust in at any moment and mow everybody down. When my sister played Army with me, and she was always on the enemy’s side, she had to fall properly when shot or she would have to do it again until she got it right.
‘“Bluuuu”” she would say and tilt her head sideways.
‘“No, you’ve got to fall on the ground properly, you’ve got to do it right,’” I would say. ‘“Now do it again.’”
I’m starting to understand now that I’m a father. My daughter can be a princess all she wants, and I’ll tell her how beautiful she is. It’s a God-given, naturally-born gift for her to want to be beautiful, to capture my attention, and I love it.
For those of you who know who John Eldredge is, maybe you can tell I’ve starting reading his book Wild at Heart. He says boys have a natural desire for a battle to fight and a beauty to rescue (a battle can be described as many things). Every boy wants to be the hero. For girls, he says, there is the desire to be beautiful, to be made much of and to be the beauty rescued by the prince. He says that we don’t have to teach boys and girls these things, they just come naturally.
He’s right. I didn’t tell my daughter to dress up like a princess, dance around the house and play wedding. She just does.
And I felt like the hero when at about two years old she came toddling into the room where I was watching The Lost Voyage, I think it was, on a classic movie channel. The movie was about a giant cruise ship that went down at sea (no, it wasn’t the Titanic). The ship’s huge smokestack broke in half and creaked eerily just as she took a place on the floor beside me. Her face was filled with concern, although the ‘special effects’ were clearly fake in the old movie to me, and she pointed to the TV saying, ‘“Daddy fix it?’”
It nearly broke my heart. ‘“Daddy would fix it if Daddy could, baby,’” I said.
She thinks I can fix anything even though I can’t hang a picture on the wall straight, and I love being her hero.
I envy her for her sense of innocence. I miss those days. As we grow older it becomes more about ourselves: getting what we want and thinking we’ve got all the answers. I’m not talking about the childhood dreams of the motorcycle or the wedding you’ve always wanted. I’m talking about pushing others out of your way to get to the top, about keeping up with the Joneses. We think we don’t need God anymore, we’re too ‘enlightened’ for that. This Easter after the Easter Bunny comes, I can’t wait to take her to an early morning Easter sunrise service.
She brings me back to what’s important in life. She teaches me to trust, to love, to give. I remember when my wife found out we were having a girl I didn’t know what I would ever do with her. I knew what kind of things boys liked, but not girls.
At the moment she was born it all became clear. She was so little ‘— her life and trust now in my very hands as I held her, this creature who had been a mysterious moving lump back and forth across my wife’s belly for nearly nine months.
I now have the opportunity to share with her and give back ‘— to teach her to do everything that I’ve wanted to do well even better, like photography or playing the drums. But if she just wants to be Cinderella, that’s OK too.